Let there be no mistake: on the Russian question, the IOC wants to take its time. A lot of time. The IOC has no intention of rushing to a final decision on the presence of athletes carrying Russian and Belarusian passports at the Paris 2024 Games.
Thomas Bach, its President, explained, repeated and hammered it home without ever losing patience, on Tuesday July 18, on the occasion of an online round table with almost 200 international media: the time for a decision has not yet come. It’s not even in the pipeline.
“We won’t be making any decisions over the summer, said the German CEO from the Olympic House in Lausanne. We’re going to take our time and be as confident as possible when the time comes to choose. I can’t imagine that will be the case at the next session, in October 2023 in India. Today, it’s difficult to give you a deadline. We want to do things diligently. We want to see and analyze how things are going on the competition field, in the qualifying events where neutral individual athletes carrying Russian or Belarusian passports are present. So far, so good. But it’s too early to make a decision.”
The message is clear: the IOC will not settle the Russian question before the end of the year at the earliest. It could even postpone its decision until the Olympic year, even if it means sacrificing some Russian and Belarusian athletes engaged in sports or disciplines where the door to the Paris 2024 Games will already have been closed.
Patience, then. But Thomas Bach did not leave much room for doubt, on Tuesday July 18, in his answers to the many questions on the Russian subject: the decision, however late, will go in the direction of the participation of athletes from the two countries in conflict with Ukraine.
“Athletes should not be held responsible for the actions of their government, he patiently explained. We sanction those responsible. But we must respect human rights. You can’t discriminate against someone just because they have this or that passport. On this position, we have the broad support of the athletes, the sporting community and the vast majority of National Olympic Committees. We have a peacemaking mission. We don’t want to add to the divisions.”
The position of France and its authorities? Not a problem, assured Thomas Bach. “The IOC and the French government are perfectly aligned on this issue,” replied the IOC President.